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As in the rest of the world, industrial agriculture damages soil quality and health in Ecuador

By Shelly Caref

The most common conception of corruption is the theft of public money through unscrupulous methods. However, there are many other ways to deceive the public and one of the most notorious is the promotion of industrial chemical agriculture.

Most people in Ecuador, visitors and residents believe that the food is natural and therefore organic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only 0.3% of the 14 million agricultural hectares are certified organic. That means that those farms have to conform to a rigid process of certification. In the U.S., by the way, the Federal Department of Agriculture allows farmers to use pesticides and still be considered organic.

There are rural campesinos that do not use excessive nitrogen and pesticides, but they are very few and many of them do not follow acceptable practices of not using fresh manure to fertilize plants.

The reality is that almost all farmers, with a few exceptions, are controlled by an industry that has zero interest in the quality or nutritional quantity of the food.

The Big 6 becomes the Big 3

Last year there were the Big 6 and today there are only the Big 3. Bayer bought Monsanto, DOW and DuPont merged and ChemChina bought Syngenta. They combine for about $375 billion in sales in a $450 billion market worldwide of chemical and biological amendments in agriculture.

The concentration of capital is due to over-production and increased competition at a time when farmers are beginning to reject chemicals. India is the best example with the hundreds of suicides due to destroyed families from high costs of the chemicals and lost production. The chemical industry is now switching to biologic products. That may appear to be good but it is not because it follows the same philosophy, but with a different product. I will explain in a minute.

Small farmers are hurt by ag-industry practices too.

The results from the intensive approach from the chemical ag-industry in Ecuador are devastating. They now control the entire university system, so that any agricultural engineer in the country gets almost no training in soil microbiology. There is absolutely no focus on true food nutrition and what used to be a sovereign food system — that is now as foreign as the salchipapas are to the traditional diet.

The excessive use of urea that is freely distributed by the government through the Ministerio de Agricultura Y Ganadería (MAGAP) is the prime reason for toxic watershed system which causes cancer in humans and animals alike and can only be filtered out with active carbons filtering.

The soils are loaded with salts from the excessive use of chemicals and fertilizers which requires the excessive use of irrigation and increasing erosion everywhere. Ecuador has lost between 20 and 40% of the organic material that normally occupies the top 10 inches of soil. The constant tillage to increase production has freed millions of tons of carbon normally sequestered in the soil upon which the bacteria and fungus use for 50% of their diet, not to mention the destruction of the mycorrhiza and bacterial species that have existed or millions of years.

The UN report on Trade and Commerce published in 2013, “Wake Up Before It Is Too Late” pointed out that the largest contributor to global warming and the green-house effect is industrial agriculture which accounts for 71% of all carbon in the atmosphere. In Ecuador, that means increased flooding on the coast and loss of glaciers and the eventual evaporation of the original 235 glacial lakes in the Cajas Mountains, west of Cuenca.

The impact on health

The worst impact is on health. There are over 450 chemicals that make up the more than 9,000 pesticide compounds that have been directly attributed to non-infectious disease and are now in epidemic form. These include 35 cancers of which 3% of occur in children, as well as other childhood diseases including autism, type 1 diabetes. In the general population, allergies, asthma, depression, Parkinson, Alzheimer’s, metabolic syndrome problems, depression, sexual reproduction, etc., are also on the increase.

The average life span in Ecuador is going down, the use of pharmaceutical drugs is going up and farmers under pressure to increase production are using more chemicals.

The proposal from the former president Correa and current vice president Glas to use transgenic (GMO) seeds is nothing more than a continued policy of chemical additives with a punch that will permanently make glyphosate as natural as DDT until the world rejected it.

The only reason to use GMO is to make money for the multinational companies. The effects of the GMO are absolutely astounding and incredibly horrendous to the entire population. The introduction of any seeds will destroy whatever native population that existed before in short order as a result of cross pollination. The seed producers own patents and have the right to take over any production if the seed was not purchased from the manufacturer. Over 80% of all GMO is packaged with glyphosate which means that pregnant women who consume food produced with that GMO seeds will have glyphosate in their blood during and lactating milk which will then be fed to their children.

The combined effect of the intensive chemicals in the agricultural industry and GMO products has literally destroyed any semblance of a healthy population and the source of food for the future, the soil.

Is this not a corrupt industry?

Ag industry bio products

Let me go back to an earlier point: biological products. Let’s start with a simple lesson in plant development.

Plant development depends on photosynthesis, which uses solar energy to combine with carbon from the air to produce simple proteins, carbohydrates and simple sugars within the plant system. About half of these nutrients are used by the plant for growth and metabolic processes but the rest goes to the roots.

In trees, about 85% of nutrients support the roots while in grasses it is about 35%. Why? The plant releases almost 100,000 phytochemicals called exudates to attract microorganisms, bacteria and fungus. The microorganisms live within 1 to 2 cm. of the roots and are attracted to eat the phyto chemicals. The bacteria and fungus secrete an enzyme that breaks down the crystalline structure of soil aggregates of sand, silt and clay to release minerals in soluble form that eventually gets consumed by the plants.

The plant knows what it needs based on which stage of plant development it is in, such as stalk, branch, leaf, flower and fruit development. How many microorganisms does the plant require? More than a hundred thousand different species in the quantity of many millions of each.

The agricultural industry sells about 5 to10 different microorganisms because it is easy to replicate them. The plant needs hundreds of thousands. What is the problem? The large variety of microorganisms facilitate plant stimulation and the immune system against pests. The limited approach of a few falls short.

In addition and more importantly, humans need between 80-90 trace minerals a day and the only way to get them is if the food comes with a rich variety of minerals and that can only happen with an agriculture that is based on rich microbiology. There is no other way. When people refer to their products being agroecological, they interpret natural use of fertilizer as being organic. It is not. True agroecological production is totally based on the scientific application of microorganisms produced from the very same soil location, not from the US to be used in Ecuador. This is why Denver and Canada could not produce quinoa successfully; same altitude and climate but different soil and microorganisms.

Food produced by microbiological methods will have between 40% and 500% more minerals, antioxidants, vitamins and probiotic bacteria. This is why there is a health crisis. There are a lot of people in Tungurahua, Chimborazo and Bolivar provinces who have thyroid problems. The food they used to eat more than a generation ago that was semi organic had 5 times more iodine than the current food and if they do not buy iodized salt, they are going to have metabolic problems with the thyroid. This is one example of many.

The best example of the benefits of eating organic food is Okinawa, Japan where people live far longer lives than the average by consuming a high organic vegetable diet with a little fish and no meat products. That is another story but the key is the consumption of organic vegetables.

On my farm, we produce a very rich microbiome in the compost that we then use to extract the microbiology and spray the gardens and fruit trees. No pests, no worries with higher production yields. I am working with farmers around the country to advance these techniques through teaching and advocacy.

I have written a book in English and Spanish, Organic Life – Path to the Future. I am concurrently working on two more books, Organic Nutrition and Biological agriculture. For those interested in classes, please let me know.

Shelly Caref retired to Ecuador after working as an engineer and mid level manager in the high tech industry for multinational companies. He and his wife, Nelly, discovered that using chemicals in agriculture had direct linkages that caused her illnesses, his daughters breast cancer and his granddaughters type 1 diabetes.  He began a five year journey of discovery, investigation and experimentation to fully understand what is “biological agriculture” and why it is the only way to produce food. He can be reached at  The ebook can be purchased in English at

19 thoughts on “As in the rest of the world, industrial agriculture damages soil quality and health in Ecuador

  1. Thank you for posting this article. It is excellent and gives insight to many of the ” medical problems” we suffer from today. This should be required reading for anyone that knows they have a brain!

  2. So what. For some unknown reason the world population is more than 7 times what it was in 1800. Somehow all of this doom and gloom has allowed that to happen. If there is an assumption the changes made to allow that to happen can come without consequences is just plain silly in my mind. This is another case of someone sitting at the airport pointing out bad landings that has absolutely no idea how to fly an airplane and thinks they are really smart because they can point to bad landings. Not to worry though because if all of this terrible stuff everyone is doing is as bad as you say then nature has a perfect way to correct it. It is called “survival of the fittest” and evolution. A million years from now there will be an answer to the question and that answer may include the extinction of humans as a species. Sometimes stuff happens, even to humans.

    1. Wow, that sounds wacko and a war on science…..mad as hell and don’t give a damn….if you have any education in ecology, human health and environment you would have an understanding what is being discussed….the population has increased due to better medical treatment for women not nutrtion. Organic is the best solution for sustainability over a million years…..inteligent scientific planning. Clue corporations don’t care about health and nutrition, they care about profits. Then again use of land for agriculture organic and otherwise is destructive to environment…..better to have vertical hydroponic agriculture in proximity to population centers – restore the earth ! Enjoy your chemical processed diet and ill health then and your selective ‘science’ .

      1. Sounds like you have some pretty selective liberal ideas. There are lots of reasons why population is up, life span is much longer, personal wealth is magnitudes higher, etc. etc. But one point you didn’t argue so I assume you agree, evolution will fix the problem.

        1. Liberal ideas? Come on, get serious. The guy is a pure socialist apologist. Right up there with the Missing In Action faulkner.

      2. Wow! Hands down, the dumbest, unscientific thing I’ve heard all day. World population has increased due improved agricultural productivity (more calories per acre of land farmed) and advances in medical science, most principally immunizations and antibiotics, the latter of which without most of us today would not be alive.

        1. Those “calories per acre” have also caused obesity issues thus health issues feeding big pharma behind the innoculations (not to be confuerd with immunization) that have lead to huge number of autistic children and deaths (well proven) and one should use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary as well as they also can cause acute intestinal and digestive problems. Keep learning, as am I…..

          1. I stand corrected. Your reply is now the dumbest thing I’ve heard all week! Those sweet innocant plants and modern agricultural practices did not cause obesity. Obesity is caused by people who eat too much. This in turn is made possible by availability of calories and prosperity. Would you rather there be too few calories to feed humanity and more poverity?

  3. Good article but one correction. Life spans are still rising in Ecuador even though the increase is getting less each year. The 2016 average is 76.21 years according the census office (the UN says 76.27). Ecuador has the longest life expectancy in the Andean area (also includes Colombia, Venezuela, Boliva and Peru). This is probably because it has the lowest poverty rate and bad nutrition is definitely part of that. Ecuador also has better health care of the poor. The high murder and violence rates in Colombia and Venezuela affects life expectancy in those countries (500% and 2,000% higher respectively than Ecuador). Life expectancy IS in fact going down in the US and what people eat is a big contributor.

    1. I am developing some lists of stats into life expectancy, health outcomes IN EC. I will need various references for govt stats, UN.and WHO stats Know any resources in English available on Ecuador online?

        1. THanks for the citation…SBM — Your husband Ken and I studied at CCENglish! I live in Quito again where I am happier.

  4. Excellent article! The part on the soil biology was especially revealing.I would suggest all to read Shelly Caref’s book.
    If you have time,watch “GMO’s Revealed”- 9 part series online. Excellent coverage of all aspects of the agro-chemical industry narrated by Dr Gentempo.Dr Zack Bush is engaging and well informed.
    $$$BigPharma would rather you didn’t become aware of the ‘state’ of the your food on the table.

  5. Great Article! Somebody forgot to put on their rose-colored glasses today and instead just stated the facts.

    Truth is if we don’t actively defend our food supply like Shelly is doing then our meals will soon be of the same quality as government school lunches.

    If Ecuadorians want to be as healthy as Americans all they need to do is follow the same systems that our multinational corporations have set in place there and they will soon achieve that same level of health. Based on what I have seen happening to Ecuadorian waistlines over the last 8 years and the startling increase in childhood diabetes I’d say they are well on their way.
    There will probably be safe GMO’s some day, possibly GMO’s better than natural foods but that will be decades from now if it happens at all. In the mean time most of us are just laboratory rats for these soulless corporations. They don’t care about our health and only seek to obtain the patent rights for all life on earth.

    My great grandfather lived to be 101 years old with no flouride added to his water or salt, no vaccinations, no pesticides, and no GMO’s, he was a lot healthier and more functional in his 90’s than most modern americans in their 70’s. In those days it was rare to hear of somebody coming down with cancer. Now the American Cancer Society says then women have a 1 in 3 chance of getting cancer and men a 1 in 2 chance! Wake up people!

  6. Great article and wish them great success in turning this problem around with their educational methods. Worldwide there are plans to eliminate population numbers and these disgusting chemicals added to food supplies is a big part of that plan, tragically.

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